Messy play

messy play picture

As you know, we like to keep ourselves on our toes and ensure we are offering the very best learning opportunities for all our children so… our self-evaluation question this week is – how well do we provide opportunities for messy play?

We recognise that messy play is essential for teaching children so many different skills. Messy activities are fun and exciting and promote concentration as well as supporting children to develop the hand eye coordination and the fine motor / handling skills they will need for writing in the future. The children are encouraged to develop independence during messy play as well – they find and put on their aprons, wash their hands afterwards etc.

We often focus our observations on maths when children are engaged in messy play because we can play alongside them and note how they are learning about number (finding numbers in the sand and naming them), shape (noticing how wet sand changes shape), capacity (filling and emptying), weight (is the bucket of water heavy or light?), counting etc.

We have a couple of messy trays outside every day and we try to go beyond the ‘normal’ sand and water to provide children with some new and different messy play experiences. Here are some of the activities we regularly offer and ideas we have thought of for ways we think we can enhance children’s learning…

  • Mark making in silly soap and sand mousse (sand and bath foam) builds muscle strength. We recently tried making puffy paint and added salt (sand would work well too) to the paint to create a sensory experience;
  • Mark making with sticks and finger painting develops hand eye coordination. We have put the easel next to the messy tray and put blobs of paint in the tray so children can use it easily. This worked so well we are going to put blobs of paint and drive cars through them to look at the patterns the wheels make next;
  • Children paint using ‘finds’ from nature – teasels, long grasses, feathers, leaves, fir cones etc. We have been reading how to make PVA paint and we will try that with natural ‘finds’ to see if it feels any different – we can stick our ‘finds’ to the pictures as well;
  • A puddle is great for riding bikes through – we often add some powder paints or crushed chalk to make patterns and play with the puddle poking it with a stick;
  • We prefer not to use fruit and vegetables for craft because we are aware of the lack of food in many parts of the world the world. However, we do make an exception by buying cheap rice and pasta for the children to use with paints and glue. We made some coloured rice and pasta using a recipe from Imagination Tree – a favourite place to visit for messy play recipes.
  • After reading ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’ and watching it on YouTube read by Michael Rosen we tried to recreate the story in the garden – with mixed results to be honest but that was part of the fun and we are going to try it again once the grass recovers!
  • We bought some GilliBaff and added water … blimey it was slippy but the children really enjoyed it on the grass and were very careful to keep the mixture in the tray. We have some Magic Snow to try next but it will need 100% supervision because it is not suitable for under 3s and we know our little ones will want to play too. We will add snowy world animals to the tray and read some books about animals in winter to help children make connections in their learning;
  • Our winter theme for January is ice and snow so we will be making lots of ice with the children to go into our messy tray for simple science experiments. We will be putting small world animals inside ice and making coloured ice for painting which we hope will be fun;
  • We are working on improving our maths provision (more to follow on that one) and we have tried some shape painting. The only problem was the some of the wooden blocks are now a bit stained but the children don’t seem to mind;
  • We make playdough most weeks here at Knutsford Childminding – we make it lots of different colours and often add a scent. In summer we add some of the lavender heads from the garden and made the playdough purple – it is always very popular. For the winter, we made white snowy playdough and we have plans to make some warming gingerbread playdough (recipe on my Pinterest board);
  • We have bought some ivory soap as well!

Risk assessment – please see our ‘sensory play’ blog for a sample risk assessment.

More information – I have started a new messy play Pinterest page with lots of ideas and recipes and I am always looking for new ones to include. If you have any good links please let me know.

Childmindersthis article from Teach Nursery magazine is excellent for noting further links between children’s messy play exploration and the areas of learning of the EYFS.

Illustration © my cute graphics

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